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And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 12, Rays 1: Giancarlo Stanton homered twice and Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit also went deep as the Yankees routed the Rays and all but ensured themselves home field in the Wild Card game. The talk of the game, however, was CC Sabathia hitting Jesus Sucre and getting ejected two innings short of what was all but certain to be his $500K bonus-triggering 155th inning pitched. Which while maybe not the single dumbest instance of unwritten rules enforcement ever — I’ll reserve that title for such acts which cost a team a game or got someone injured — was certainly the most expensive instance of it. Afterwards Sabathia said he didn’t care, saying “I don’t make decisions based on money, I guess,” and “I felt like it was the right thing to do.” Given that Sabathia has made over $200 million in his career I suppose he won’t miss that bonus.

Rockies 5, Phillies 3: David Dahl homered in his fourth straight game, Trevor Story and Gerardo Parra also went deep, the Rockies won their seventh straight and their lead over the Dodgers in the NL West is now a full game with three left to play. It’s the Rockies longest winning streak of the season. I don’t believe in momentum and I don’t think there is a strong correlation between a team finishing the season hot and going deep in the playoffs, but it’s certainly the case that the Rockies are hot at the right time for purposes of actually getting to the big tournament.

Mets 4, Braves 1: Devin Mesoraco hit a three-run homer and Kevin Plawecki hit a solo shot to back Jason Vargas who tossed seven-shutout innings against a shorthanded Braves lineup. Atlanta rested Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson is still out with an injury and the Braves talked about Julio Teheran‘s start as if it were a mere tuneup for the playoffs. Which is fine I suppose, but it’s also the case that they need to make up a game on the Rockies and/or the Dodgers in the next three days to avoid starting the NLDS on the road and you’d figure that would be a higher priority.

Royals 2, Indians 1: The Royals season has been eminently forgettable, but Adalberto Mondesi‘s coming out party has been quite a thing. He homered in this one and then, with two out in the tenth, he drew a walk, stole second and third base and then came home with the winning run when Sal Perez hit a walkoff single. Mondesi has stole 30 bases in only 72 games and, while that walk was only the ninth of the season and his OBP could be better, he has been an exciting presence in a game that, of late, has not been particularly exciting.

Cubs 3, Pirates 0: Jon Lester tossed six shutout innings, David Bote tripled in two runs and Daniel Murphy knocked in a third. The win gives Chicago a one-game lead in the NL Central with three to play. The three the Cubs have to play come against the Cardinals, which is a taller order than the three Milwaukee has to play against the Tigers.

Twins 9, Tigers 3:  Willians Astudillo had a two-run single and a two-run double to lead the Twins attack. Tyler Austin drove in three. Astudillo is a late season callup who is trying to work his way into the Twins plans for 2019. He’s doing a good job of it, batting .357/372/.524 with three homers and 19 RBI in 26 games. Viva La Tortuga.

Rangers 2, Mariners 0: Ariel Jurado blanked Seattle for six innings and three Texas relievers combined to complete the three-hit shutout. Ronald Guzman singled in one of Texas’ runs and Isiah Kiner-Falefa took a bases-loaded plunking to knock in the second. The Rangers have won five of their last six against the Mariners.

Astros vs. Orioles — POSTPONED:

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Ahoy, San Diego: 2019 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on San Diego, California for the 2019 Winter Meetings. Let’s talk about what’ll go down there in the next week.

 

Free Agents

So far this has been a much brisker offseason than the past two, during which it seemed like no one signed between November and February. This year, however, we have already seen top-30 free agents Zack Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, Cole Hamels, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Moustakas, and Michael Pineda sign, and a handful of others have inked pacts as well.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done. Top free agent Gerrit Cole has had some heat around him lately, with the Yankees reportedly hot on his trail, and New York has at least had a conversation with San Diego native and resident Stephen Strasburg as well. Beyond them, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Nicholas Castellanos, and Josh Donaldson are all looking for new employers as well.

At the end of October Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot ran down the top 111 free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

 

Trades

Free agent signings notwithstanding, we are in an age in which a lot of teams are in cost-savings mode. For that reason some big, MVP-caliber names are reportedly on the trading block, including Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and, perhaps, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Beyond them, there has been chatter about the Dodgers dealing Joc Pederson, the Tigers dealing Matthew Boyd and the Pirates and Rockies shopping anyone worth a bag of balls.

Whether any of those big names switch teams, it’s already been a pretty active trading season so far, and it would not be at all surprising of the transaction wire is humming in the next week. We, of course, will have near-instant breakdowns of every deal that goes down, so make sure you keep a window open with this site on it and hit refresh early and often.

 

Managers on Parade

 

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press.

We have a boatload of new managers this year, all of whom have had their happy little press conferences back in their home cities so far. The press availabilities at the Winter Meetings are a bit more in depth and, quite often, feature managers giving more detailed answers to their philosophies and their plans as they prepare for the 2020 season.

New at the little tables and under the bright lights this year: Jayce Tingler with the Padres, Mike Matheny with the Royals, Gabe Kapler with the Giants, David Ross with the Cubs, Derek Shelton with the Pirates, Joe Maddon with the Angels, Carlos Beltrán with the Mets, and Joe Girardi with the Phillies.

And, yes, the tradition like no other continues this year, as I will be ranking all 30 of the current managers on the basis of handsomeness. Here’s last year’s rankings. The new rankings will go up first thing Monday morning. It’s the silliest thing I do all year and, for better or for worse, it’s the thing I’m best known for. What a life I have.

 

Hall of Fame Vote

The Modern Baseball Era Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past two weeks I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

Committee members get four votes each. If I had four I’d give them to Whitaker, Evans, Simmons, and Miller, but you never know what the real voters will do. We’ll have the results up on Sunday evening once the vote is made public.

 

Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball

One thing a lot of people don’t know about the Winter Meetings is that it’s put on, primarily, by Minor League Baseball as an organization and the vast majority of the people on the ground at the Winter Meetings either run or work for or are trying to sell stuff to minor league teams. Almost every team’s owner comes and brings along some staffers. Coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team employees who spend most of their year out in the bushes as opposed to back at the big club’s home base attend meetings and hobnob with one another.

Normally that’s all pretty routine. This year, however, it probably won’t be thanks to Rob Manfred’s plan to contract 42 minor league clubs and rearrange a great many more of them across levels and leagues.

As we noted earlier today, that scheme has set off a political firestorm and is no doubt the top agenda item and point of concern for every single minor league official and employee at the Winter Meetings. There are, reportedly, already meetings going on in San Diego about all of this. Expect some news about it at any point in the next week. At this point I’d expect anything from Manfred totally scrapping the plan, to him doubling down on it, to reports of general acrimony and possible legal action and everything in between.

 

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions, the Hall of Fame stuff, the managers and the minor league contraction intrigue, we’ll likely have more mundane Winter Meetings business. Most people at the Winter Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but something will likely pop up. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

 

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am Pacific time on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone a couple of years ago, went un-picked and all he’s done is rake like crazy for the team with the most wins in the National League. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego — and maybe a few other places around town — bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.